Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Nation of Wusses! Listening to Rendell

A Nation of Wusses!
Had the great pleasure of seeing Governor Rendell speak last night in Upper Dublin. He is promoting his book, A Nation of Wusses: How America's Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.
Appropriately, he was introduced by a beautiful young woman who spoke warmly and articulately of her admiration for him and also poked a little fun at his tendency to shoot his mouth off. It was a great introduction.
The governor began by saying that he believes his greatest achievement was the changes in Philadelphia under his time as mayor. Not so much the substantive changes, though they were significant, but that he restored a sense of pride in Philadelphians and made people believe in the city again.
He remarked that he had spent 34 years in public life; as a DA, mayor, governor and Democratic party chair. In what I felt was the most moving part speech he said that his life of public service has been thrilling, exciting and rewarding. “I didn’t make a lot of money but I made peoples lives better.”
How many of us will be able to say the same about our lives work? 
According to Rendell he wrote the book for two main reasons. One was to encourage young people to go into public service as he worries that the current negative political scene will discourage them.
The other was to clearly articulate his view that government is not the enemy. While it may not have 100% of the solutions it is essential in protecting our most vulnerable citizens and creating opportunity for those who do not have any. As he pointed out after 9-11, Katrina, and Sandy no one was calling for less government.
He spoke about what he sees as the main problem facing the country today; elected leaders who lack the guts to get anything done. He noted that our country was founded by shopkeepers and farmers who had the chutzpah to think they could defeat the greatest army in the world, and by men with fortunes who were willing to risk it all to do the right thing.
He emphasized that we cannot have a first rate economy with a second rate infrastructure. Currently America has the 22nd best railroads and the 32nd best airline transport system. As every successful business knows you need to invest in yourself.
He noted that democrats need to stop being afraid to agree to entitlement reforms and republicans need to agree to revenue enhancement. He believes politicians are terrified of special interests and of making a mistake in the media. They need to believe in the intelligence of the voter. He noted that he raised taxes significantly in his first term as governor, a point hammered on by his opponent. But he won by 22 points because “we did stuff”.
During the Q and A he was asked if he had any future political ambitions. He joked that while he wouldn’t mind being president he had no interest in running for president. ‘I don’t want to spend three years of my life in Iowa and New Hampshire’. He felt Hillary received terrible campaign advice in 2008 and offered to run her next one for free!
He reminded us that we must vote in all elections, not just presidential ones. The ‘off years’, when we elect the state legislatures, are often the most important as they determine who controls Congress thorough redistricting.
It was a terrific evening and we can only hope that we can fill Rendell’s prescription for our national health with elected officials who have the ”heart, courage and willingness to do the right thing”

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